Beermen, Gin Kings begin semifinal series

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Reigning champion San Miguel Beer and crowd-favorite Barangay Ginebra will start their best-of-five semifinal showdown in the Philippine Basketball Association Season 41 Governors’ Cup today at the Araneta Coliseum.

The game is at 7 p.m.

After eliminating the No. 7 Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX) Road Warriors (114-110) with their twice-to-beat incentive during the quarterfinals last Friday, the Beermen are now focusing on taking on the league’s most favorite team.

“We need to play as a unit,” two-time PBA Most Valuable Player winner June Mar Fajardo told The Manila Times during a phone interview. “We cannot take them for granted because Ginebra is a talented team in all positions and they also have the crowd.”


“But I believe we can beat them,” he added.

Fajardo, who averaged 20.2 points plus 11.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks after 12 games in the elimination and one in the quarterfinal round, will give Ginebra’s frontline a big headache in the series. At the same time, there is no 7-footer Greg Slaughter for the Gin Kings.

Slaughter was diagnosed with a possible anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury prior to the quarterfinals.

Besides Fajardo, import Elijah Millsap will be there to take charge offensively for the Beermen together with forward Arwind Santos, 6’5 Gabby Espinas, guard Marcio Lassiter, Ronald Tubid, Alex Cabagnot, playmaker Chris Ross and veteran Yancy De Ocampo.

The Gin Kings, on their part, are not an easy adversary for San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria, however.

With the emergence of import Justin Brownlee, veteran LA Tenorio rookie Earl Scottie Scottie Thompson under the tutelage of multi-titled grand slam coach Tim Cone, Barangay Ginebra is considered the most dangerous team in the semifinals.

After finishing the elimination round with an 8-3 win-loss record to secure a twice-to-beat bonus, the Gin Kings eliminated earlier the Alaska Aces (109-104) to face the Beermen in the Final Four. But Cone warned his players that San Miguel Beer is not an easy task.

“We know how good San Miguel Beer is and how tough they’ll be,” Cone told The Manila Times via text message. “We just have to see if we can make them uncomfortable and drive them out of their comfort zones. They have a lot of weapons to account for so we’ll have our hands full. Still, we have a couple of games to figure them out.”

The Gin Kings will be relying on veteran guards Mark Caguioa and Jay Jay Helterbrand, Japeth Aguilar, Jervy Cruz, Dave Marcelo and Solomon Mercado in trying to win Game 1 over the Beermen.

JOSEF T. RAMOS

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